Now that top virtualization vendors have staked their claims on the operating environments of the major platforms, they are training their sights on application virtualization as a means to streamline network architectures.
VMware made the most recent move in this direction with the acquisition of Thinstall earlier this week. The company's Virtualization Suite provides a thin virtual OS that allows apps to be delivered from centralized storage without having to mess around with client or server software. Not only does this avoid potential points of failure, it lets you isolate applications across desktops without having to increase security safeguards.
Thinstall's main advantage is that it provides virtual applications without streaming the software. Each app is bundled with the necessary DLLs into its own executable file, which makes for easier distribution but more difficult management as there's no real way to tell who's using what app and what kinds of patches are being used.
Other providers use streaming technology in various ways to deliver virtual applications. Through its FabricServer 2.5 system, DataSynapse provides a "real-time infrastructure" to stream applications dynamically to meet organizational needs. So instead of worrying about whether resources are over- or under-provisioned, the FabricServer system distributes back-end applications from Informatics, Business Objects and others to meet existing service level agreements (SLAs).
Microsoft is also getting into the market, having released the MSI Utility for Microsoft Application Virtualization for the SoftGrid platform. The system uses Windows Installer to load and configure applications, bringing virtual application capabilities to the Systems Management Server 2003, System Center Configuration Manager and other elements that support the Electronic Software Distribution (EDS) system.
Application virtualization may tie up fewer system resources than full OS virtualization, but it does tend to chew up more CPU cycles, inhibiting system performance. Still, there's no denying that it can enhance enterprise flexibility as part of a mixed bag of virtual and non-virtual capabilities.